I rant about Facebook. A lot. I'm not sorry. I know I'm among a legion of FB haters. My buddy @rhappe responded to one of my many anti-FB rants by telling me that I should write a blog post titled "Why Facebook is the worst thing that ever happened to social media" and here it is.
The idea that openness and connection are the social mission of FB is laughable at best when you consider the relationship that's been built between FB and its users.
Let me be clear right up front that I am deeply aware that users of FB are far from its customers. Its customers are the ones who fork over cash to cack up your stream with ads lightly aligned to the information you've offered up, either through use, or through the rouse of giving an app access to your every move. FB is simply the one who provides the space, ever encroaching space, and the logic to those customers.
Now, onto why FB's mission is disingenuous. Having a relationship with FB is impossible. It's like having the great and powerful OZ as a landlord. It simply doesn't exist. They don't even have a visible spokesperson who engages with the community to figure out what users or customers might want. The model is ancient; a singular, secretive (unless you spend your cycles keeping tabs on their every move or sifting through the double speak in blog posts and press releases) plan to increase the number of eyeballs and hits on links. They are taking the newspaper ad sales approach, but the quality of content is more Weekly World News than WSJ. I've often referred to FB as the awkward, amorous boy on his first date, doing the old Yaaaawn, arm goes around the girls shoulders and hand sinks a little lower than it should, stretch. FB preys on what a friend of mine likes to call "the dumb kids".
(Charming - Thanks Mark, I feel very connected! How did you know I wanted to be an Astrology Counselor at a School?! Wait, is that even a thing?)
The most important way that FB's mission is crap has to do with the information bubble the user is placed in. You'll note this deeply with the "top" stories (based on what? and whom?) vs. the recently posted filter, and in screaming volumes when you move from the mobile app to the web experience. So much filtering is going on that it's common to simply not see all of your friends posts because you haven't interacted with some of them recently (uh, that's why we're FB friends. To stay connected despite a loose tie.) Don't worry though, you'll see the ads! Phew!
Why is the this the worst thing to happen to social media? Because the mission is misleading and it's teaching those with no big picture view (the kind who live and die based on so called best practices instead of personal depth or development) the "successful" way to build a network. When we consider all that's good and promising about social media, transparency (for all), serendipity, connection and the ability to mobilize quickly when we need to, each of these elements are not shared between the user population and Facebook. The transparency is foisted on users, not shared. The serendipity is being programmed out to ensure it only supports FB and ad sales. The connection? Only if your activity patterns align with the algorithm that feeds ad sales. If we can't see and don't know what's happening we can't mobilize, hell, we can't even seem to impact FB's road map. Imagine how the increasing info bubble could have impacted the Arab Spring events.
Facebook's assertions are rarely backed up with actions that match and that's the why FB is the worst thing ever to happen to social media. They are inauthentic, and lack integrity. They still don't understand their civic responsibilities. Pretty harsh statements, I know. But precedent has been set, that with a thin demonstration of acceptable human behavior and a little bit of code, you can launch an app, create a network, then hold that network hostage. It is a model that has played out over and over in the dearth of networks that have sprung up since FB's' ascent, where the wide, dollar-signed eyes of investors got a peek at social networking as the future of big biz. That mere presence assumes engagement. It's 0-1 thinking and it's damaging.
What FB is missing is engagement. Engagement is the human element that keeps things from going off the money-grubbing rails. Engagement meaning, a real relationship with the users of the network. A mutual exchange of benefits, ideas, and involvement. That is what true transparency looks like. That is how you create meaningful opportunities for serendipity, and that is how we are able to act as a connected community. What we are now is batteries in the Matrix. Ducks being turned into foie gras conversion opportunities.
Personally, I'm still on FB because I live 3000k miles away from my family and closest friends. I'm here because everyone else is here. There are other options, however they are not options that have enough adoption to make for a meaningful transition. I'd simply lose touch with a large hunk of folks that I am genuinely interested in keeping a connection with. I use it a lot. I never click on ads, play games, add apps or use the "social news" features. If something interests me I'll Google it. If I'm asked for more information I decline, and if you're my FB friend, you'll suffer from my embittered rants with some (hopefully not too much) frequency.
I've considered leaving a million times. Of late, I've been thinking of returning to my blogs and inviting my friends to grab a feed if they are interested in one of them. I know with that route that I'm back to losing hunks of friends. FB has made me a bitter, willing captive. The one thing that is true on this planet is change, especially in the fickle and ADD world of tech. Empires diminish and fall quickly. I honestly don't expect all of us to be here 2-3 years down the line. I'm really looking forward to the next step in the evolution of social networking, and the time when we mature meaningfully around the offerings and use of social media.
Grow up, Facebook. It's time to leave your awkward 20's and move on to more adult relationships. Those who don't grow, die.